She’s been following – vaguely, because she doesn’t like posting on sexual harassment stories – the increasingly icky case of Gabriel Piterberg, a UCLA history professor who seems to have sexually harassed two graduate students. (UD shies away from these stories because they are typically insanely complicated, with claims and counterclaims galore, and everything grows into intricate lawsuits which spawn further lawsuits… I mean, of course, UD does post on quite a few such stories – they’re obviously important. But you often feel the ground shifting uncomfortably under you as you try to make sense of them.) They sued, and the university settled. Piterberg got some financial and other punishments (required seminar in foundations of not sexually harassing women; keep the office door open), and is now, at the beginning of spring semester, back at work.

But lots of people aren’t happy about that (38 of his colleagues wrote this protest letter), and they’ve been protesting/disrupting his classes. He hasn’t really been able to teach.

The story has jumped to major media outlets, and, in the context of plenty of recent California-university-based sexual harassment incidents, looks bad for UCLA.

Making matters worse is the notorious anti-Zionism of Piterberg, who grew up in Israel and came to regard the Zionist project as rank colonialist folly. One of Piterberg’s colleagues, the father of Daniel Pearl, has not hesitated to condemn him:

“Piterberg belongs to a group of extreme left so-called historians who see their role as the reinterpretation of history to fit their political agenda,” Pearl said.

Pearl said that Piterberg has greatly damaged UCLA and its history department by trying to legitimatize anti-Israel movements on campus and “demoralizing Jewish students.”

Let’s face it: Not a popular guy on campus. Students figure he’d be happy to get the hell out if UCLA gave him a good severance.

What they’re forgetting is that he probably has nowhere else to go.


Anyway, in reading about Piterberg and his work, UD came upon this comment, from someone reviewing one of his books.

While he knew all about the contradiction in “religious Zionism”, [Chaim] Bermant was more indulgent towards his Labour friends, and overlooked that other contradiction – what George Steiner has perceptively called Zionism as a secular-political movement invoking a scriptural-mystical justification “to which it could not, in avowed honesty, subscribe.” Or as the Israeli writer Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, cited by Piterberg, puts it, “There is no God, but He promised us the Land”…

UD likes this very much – “There is no God, but He promised us the land.”

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One Response to “Circuitously, UD happens on a saying she likes.”

  1. john Says:

    yes, it does capture an argument very well.

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